This is the second of two parts.
Published in the December 30, 2016 edition
By MARK SARDELLA
With five elections in 2016, politics continued to dominate the headlines in 2016. After the Presidential Primary and the Town Election in the first half of the year, residents would go to the polls three more times in the second half.
But first, they celebrated. The Fourth of July, from the children’s activities in the morning to the huge parade in the afternoon and the spectacular fireworks at night, brought tens of thousands out for the festivities.
The voters returned Phyllis Hull to the Board of Selectmen in a July 19 Special Election to fill the one year remaining on the term of Betsy Sheeran, who resigned after being elected Town Clerk in April. After losing her bid for re-election in April, Hull collected the 200 signatures needed to call the Special Election. After an abbreviated campaign, Hull defeated six other candidates to regain a seat on the board.
After two months of hearings, on July 20, the Zoning Board of Appeals granted the Special Permit and a variance that would allow Hallmark Health to go forward with its plans to construct a medical office building at 888 Main St. in Greenwood, the former Subaru of Wakefield site. The Hallmark building will offer primary care physicians, a walk-in clinic and other medical services. The project had met with significant resistance from neighbors, whose principal concerns were related to the blasting that would take place to prepare the site as well as traffic.
On the same night, the ZBA granted the relief that would allow the Maggiore Companies to begin work on a five-story, 60-unit residential/retail building at 175 North Avenue. “The Residences and Shops at Wakefield Station” is expected to be completed in 2017.
On August 9, the Board of Selectmen authorized Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio to issue a Request for Qualifications to seek a consultant to study the feasibility of building a hockey rink on Hemlock Road.
The continuing drought caused the water levels in Crystal Lake to drop noticeably. DPW Director Richard Stinson said that the town would likely reduce the amount of drinking water that it draws from the lake.
In mid-August, the selectmen authorized Maio to get an appraisal of the Hurd School in anticipation of seeking proposals for the sale of the building.
On Thursday, Aug. 11, a local man was seriously injured when a commuter rail train crashed into his pickup truck at the Broadway crossing. It was unclear why retired Wakefield Firefighter Robert Thompson drove onto the tracks, as it appeared that the gates and lights were working properly. Thompson was flown to a Boston hospital by a MedFlight helicopter.
By Aug. 15 the entire region was under a drought warning. While no official limits were placed on water usage in town, residents were urged to conserve and limit outside watering. Digital signs were placed around town urging residents to conserve water.
On Aug. 17, legendary Wakefield Memorial High School cross-country coach John Dicomandrea was honored with a marker at the Shaun Beasley Track and Field Complex. Between 1964 and 2011, Dicomandrea coached numerous championship WMHS cross country teams. Dignitaries who came to honor “Coach Deke” included WMHS alumni and athletes like former US Senator Scott Brown and Boston Athletic Association Executive Director Thomas Grilk.
MIT professor and 1995 WMHS graduate Catherine Turco published a new book “The Conversational Firm.”
Festival Italia on Saturday, Aug. 20 brought thousands to the downtown area to enjoy food, music, entertainment, and a celebrity dunk tank for charity.
By late August, foundations were in place and steel was going up on the future Brightview Senior Living facility on Crescent Street.
On Tuesday, Aug. 30, an 18-year-old man from Beverly was stabbed through the chest with the shaft of a golf club by another 18-year-old man from Beverly while in Breakheart Reservation. The victim was flown by MedFlight to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston as his alleged attacker was arrested by police after crashing a stolen car in front of Farmland in Wakefield Square. A third man was reportedly also with the pair when the attack occurred.
The DPW had to scramble after Hiltz Waste disposal suddenly suspended collection of recyclables in Wakefield and other North Shore towns on Wednesday, Aug. 31. Another contractor, JRM, which was scheduled to take over collecting recyclables in Wakefield after September, agreed to step in early.
On Thursday, Sept. 8, Jennifer Migliore of Saugus defeated Wakefield’s Saritin Rizzuto of Wakefield in the Democratic Primary Election for State Representative. Migliore’s win meant that she would face off against incumbent Republican State Rep. Donald Wong of Saugus on Nov. 8 for the Ninth Essex District seat, which represents Wakefield Precincts 1, 2, 3 and 7.
The Selectmen voted on Sept. 12 to move forward with plans to create a new dog park on a parcel of town-owned land at 667 Main Street in the Junction.
About 100 local residents turned out on Sept. 13 for a public forum at the old Hurd School on Cordis Street to discuss options for reuse of the former elementary school building. The school became vacant again after tenant Nazareth Academy closed for good in June.
Veteran Wakefield Police Lt. Matthew Maglio retired on Sept. 15 after 32 years in law enforcement, the last 22 of which were spent with WPD.
A rash of reported clown sightings in Wakefield in late September and early October mirrored a national fad.
In mid-October, local residents were saddened by the passing of two beloved local figures: Nancy LaSpina Ruehrwein (former owner of Lubie’s Jewelry) and Farmland owner Gino Pellegrini.
On Friday, Oct. 21, the town’s state legislative delegation of Sen. Jason Lewis, Rep. Paul Brodeur and Rep. Donald Wong came to town to present Town Clerk Betsy Sheeran with the Silver Medal Award from the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women for her work to facilitate early voting in Wakefield.
On Sunday, Oct. 23, dozens of police backers demonstrated their support by tying blue ribbons on trees and poles from the downtown area to Greenwood.
At their Oct. 24 meeting, the Board of Selectmen voted to increase the property tax levy by only 1.5 percent in FY 2017 instead of the full 2.5 percent allowed by law. The move will net the average homeowner a savings of $60 and the average business will save $300.
The School Department announced on Oct. 25 that starting with the 2017-2018 school year, Wakefield Public Schools will screen students for substance abuse disorder using a verbal screening tool, as required under the provisions of an opioid abuse prevention bill passed by the Massachusetts legislature and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker last March.
On Sunday, Oct. 30, local families enjoyed “Haunted Happenings,” a Halloween-themed event with games, entertainment and trick-or-treating for the kids. The event on Albion Street was organized by local merchants.
The WMHS Marching Band and Color Guard won the Platinum Medal at the NESBA finals on Oct. 30.
On Monday night, Nov. 7, 108 local voters took 75 minutes to complete the nine articles on the Regular Town Meeting warrant.
In Tuesday, Nov. 8 Election, a majority of local voters chose Hillary Clinton for president over the national winner, President-elect Donald Trump. Republican Donald Wong defeated Democrat Jennifer Migliore in the Ninth District State Representative race. In the Fifth Middlesex State Senate race, Democrat Jason Lewis trounced Republican Vincent Dixon. Running unopposed, Rep. Paul Brodeur won re-election to his 32nd Middlesex District seat.
On Friday, Nov. 11, hundreds turned out for Veterans Day ceremonies at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in the Galvin Middle School and heard US Army veteran John Bohling deliver a stirring patriotic speech.
In late November, about 70 people attended a meeting at the Galvin Middle School on the prospect of creating an “arts corridor” on Albion Street.
The town announced plans to take over running the Americal Civic Center next year from the nonprofit organization currently in charge of the building. The facility will be run by the Recreation Department.
Thousands descended on the downtown for the annual Holiday Stroll on Saturday, Dec. 3, starting with the traditional Hat Parade” down Main Street.
On Saturday morning, Dec. 10, the town officially opened the new Wakefield Dog Park in the Junction. That afternoon, Santa Claus was greeted by throngs of adoring children when he arrived at his headquarters on the Common.
Local and State Police attracted the attention of local and Boston media when they conducted a search of the woods off Briarwood Lane on Dec. 14. The law enforcement officials were searching for evidence related to the homicide of a Lynn man whose body was found in the woods off Sunset Drive on April 28, 2015.
Mother Nature dumped the first significant snow of the season on Saturday, Dec. 17. But the few inches of white stuff mostly disappeared from the town’s roadways by the end of the day as temperatures rose and the precipitation turned to rain.
In late December, Police Chief Rick Smith was named to an international task force on violence against law enforcement.
On Dec. 21, a consultant presented the results of a feasibility study of the 13-year-old Public Safety Building that revealed significant structural problems with the Police side of the building along with functional issues.